A possible trigger for this joint weakening condition?
Autoimmune diseases are a complex group of illnesses that have a thirst for damaging a person’s own body with no specific cause. However, as the research develops into these conditions, it is becoming more apparent that there are originators for these diseases, we just don’t understand them completely yet.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease which effects the joints causing stiffness, swelling and pain. Its cause is not fully understood, however, growing evidence is uncovering a link between RA and the health of your gums.
In this article, I will review the association between RA and a type of gum disease, known as Periodontitis, as well as exploring natural ways of improving your gum health which may help prevent the onset of or manage symptoms of RA.
What is the link between RA and oral health?
Centuries ago, Hippocrates observed that in people suffering with arthritis, when their infected teeth were removed their arthritis improved. Since then, very little has progressed in determining the interaction of gum health and RA, however recent research has indicted the following:
- Periodontal disease is often observed in patients with early stages of RA. In most cases, it is severe and includes symptoms of gum bleeding, gingivitis and gaps between the teeth and the gums, leading to receding gums.
- The inflammation caused from gum disease at first is localised to the gums, but the understanding is that this inflammatory response becomes systemic leading to rheumatic conditions such as RA.
- They have identified specific strains of oral bacteria such as Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) which may play a role in damaging joints in RA, through its effect on various molecules within the body. The mechanism for this damage is through a process known as ‘citrullination’ which affects the creation of important enzymes causing them to not function properly. These enzymes contribute to joint formation. As a result, the immune system begins to target the affected joint, which damages the joint further and causes inflammation which leads to the symptoms of RA.
- Recent studies have shown complex interactions between dental heath, a person’s response to infection and their immune function. Further research is needed but it is apparent that the health of your gums plays an important role in overall health.
RA and Sjogren’s syndrome
Many people suffering with RA also have symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome which impacts the parts of the body that produce fluid such as tears and saliva. A common symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome is a dry mouth which may affect the ecosystem of the mouth, leading to a build-up of pathogenic bacteria, potentially leading to the onset of RA. Anyone suffering with Sjogren’s syndrome should take extra care with their gum health as a result.
How to protect your gums naturally
For those at risk of RA or who are suffering with the disease currently, protecting your gums may be a way to manage your condition. Natural ways to support your gum health includes:
- Oil pulling – this is a technique used in Ayurveda tradition, where oil is swirled in the mouth for up to 20 minutes which has been shown to prevent pathogenic bacteria from colonising in the mouth.
- Green tea – as well as green tea’s other health promoting qualities, it may also be effective at preventing gum disease. Have at least two green teas a day for optimal effects.
- Saltwater – this is as simple as it sounds. A saltwater rinse may have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects on the gums.
- Brushing and flossing – this is an obvious one, but it cannot be left out when it comes to gum health. Brushing and flossing daily is essential for gum health – opt for a natural based toothpaste so that the beneficial bacteria in your mouth remain intact.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to settle gum inflammation possibly by increasing immune tolerance and supporting the immune function.
Further research on the link between RA and dental health is needed. However, if the associations and mechanism are confirmed in clinical trials, improving someone’s dental health with natural therapies or medication might become a treatment for someone at risk or who is suffering with RA.
If you are suffering with RA and have problems with your gums, exploring this option might be worthwhile for you now.
In my nutritional therapy clinic I offer a 3-month autoimmune transformation package which may help set in motion the process back to better health and manage symptoms of autoimmunity. If you are interested in discovering how these packages might help you, please feel free to arrange a 15-minute free call with me through the booking option on my website.
In next week’s article, I will be reviewing the concept of inflammation and unravelling its benefits and pit falls, especially when it comes to autoimmunity.